Eagles Banged-Up Secondary Set to be Tested by Wounded Giants
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — The attrition that often defines the NFL has set its sights on the Eagles secondary early in the season.
A week after losing top cornerback Ronald Darby to a dislocated ankle in Washington, Philadelphia saw safety Rodney McLeod and cornerback Jaylen Watkins exit early in Kansas City due to hamstring injuries.
Both McLeod and Watkins have been listed as day-to-day moving forward by coach Doug Pederson but neither is expected to play this weekend against a desperate 0-2 New York Giants team that has talent at the receiver position but is struggling to find ways to get their playmakers the ball due to shoddy offensive line play as well as a descending quarterback in Eli Manning.
More so, Odell Beckham Jr. is still not 100 percent after a preseason ankle injury and veteran Brandon Marshall has been dropping the football early.
Without McLeod, veteran Corey Graham is expected to start opposite Malcolm Jenkins at safety, while rookie third-round pick Rasul Douglas becomes more important in Watkins' absence and could get his first start on the outside at CB after performing well in trying circumstances against the Chiefs.
Jim Schwartz could also start veteran Patrick Robinson opposite of Jalen Mills at CB and kick the former inside when Philadelphia is in the nickel with Douglas entering on the outside. Either way, the West Virginia product is sure to get plenty of work against OBJ, Marshall and Sterling Shepard.
“We have confidence in both of those guys,” Schwartz said during his weekly press briefing on Tuesday. “…It was the first experience for Rasul. It was not the first experience for Corey. Corey has been around the block. Rasul stepped in, and I thought he did a good job. He tackled well and made no mental mistakes."
Graham, meanwhile, wasn't as effective as the rookie in K.C. especially in run support when he whiffed as the last line of defense during Kareem Hunt’s 53-yard touchdown run.
Despite that Schwartz has great confidence in the veteran.
“He’s an experienced player [and] just like Rodney, smart,” Schwartz said. “Both guys were corners in the past — there’s a lot of similarities. Corey has been around a little bit longer, but we have confidence in both of those guys being able to execute whatever we wanted."
OBJ didn't look 100 percent during his season debut Monday night against Detroit but he remains one of the most dangerous receivers in football so Butler will be under the microscope just as he was while playing 39 snaps against Tyreek Hill and the Chiefs.
Schwartz eschewed press coverage against Hill for the most part and will likely do the same against Beckham while asking his impressive front to either speed up Manning or get him off his spots.
“It’s not just about stopping one guy,” Schwartz said. “It’s about playing good team defense, and if we do that, we’ll be able to exploit some of our better matchups in the game.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen